Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reviews and Ratings for Children's Literature

I've had a similar conversation with several of my friends lately. We each have children that are reading beyond their grade level and yet are still too young for some of the themes and messages in many of the books written for older children. Some of my friends read and screen each book before their children are allowed to read it. Others take a completely hands-off approach. So far, I've been some where in the middle.

Last spring Neal read every single volume of Harry Potter. I read the first one but not until after he had read it and begged me to read it too. I've encouraged him to read books like The Sign of the Beaver and Old Yeller because I read them and loved them as a kid. He wanted to read The City of Ember and I insisted on reading it first. It won my approval. But I didn't prescreen Holes or The Mysterious Benedict Society. I won't let my daughters read Twilight until they are in their older teen years. Hopefully by then it will be way out of date and they would think it "old fashioned".

I can't exactly explain my reasoning on why I read some and don't insist on reading others. My own to-read list is so long, I have trouble screening every book for Neal. However, knowing what they are reading is important to me. Yesterday, while looking for a good historical fiction book for Neal's next book report, I found an online service that could help me (and maybe you) have a better idea of what books are and aren't appropriate for our children.

Common Sense Media is a website that gives reviews and ratings for movies, TV shows, books, music, games and websites using child development principles.

The reviews for books include the age appropriateness, the main messages, and whether there are things for parents to watch out for such as substance abuse, violence, sex, language and consumerism. And of course there is a starred rating for overall goodness. After all, the book might not have anything bad in it but no one, especially a kid, wants to read a poorly written or boring book.

The website also allows parents and kids to add their own reviews and ratings of books they have read.
And I noticed that their reviews of movies are now included on Netflix.

I've just browsed through Common Sense Media Website a little the last two days and I can tell already that it will be one I reference often.


Kate Weber said...

Great link! I hope I can remember it when I have kids! But by the time they are reading...I'm sure it will be out of my mind. So in maybe ten years or so I'm sure I'll contact you. :)

Ammon and Jen said...

THANK YOU!! I logged on to Goodreads and explored it for really the first time yesterday and I was overwhelmed. I think I will use this for myself as much as for my children.